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Story 2

Maureen Bowden

Maureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian, living with her musician husband in North Wales. She has had fifty-four poems and short stories accepted for publication by paying markets.

Silver Pen publishers nominated one of her stories for the 2015 international Pushcart Prize.

She also writes song lyrics, mostly comic political satire, set to traditional melodies. Her husband has performed these in Folk clubs throughout England and Wales. She loves her family and friends, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shakespeare, and cats.

This is Maureen's second appearance in 4 Star Stories. Check out her story Fallen Leaf in Issue 12.

Odin Rising is a charming story of SETI gone wrong set at the Jodrell Bank radio telescope in Great Britain. Who would have thought aliens would offer to be so... helpful?




Odin Rising

by Maureen Bowden


In a forgotten corner of Jodrell Bank, Center for Astrophysics and Astronomy, a team of three cosmic researchers inhabited a back room, cluttered with dog-eared copies of Astronomy in the UK, out of date volumes of New Scientist, and waste paper bins overflowing with sandwich wrappers and two weeks’ editions of The Daily Mail.

It was here that Doctor Kathy Allan discovered that Saturn had, not sixty-two, but sixty-three moons. “What do you make of this, Jake?” she called to her fellow team member and occasional lover, Doctor Jacob Hemming.

Jake put down his iced doughnut, one of Nora, the canteen manager’s specialities, and, still chewing, examined Kathy’s data. “Jeez, Kath. It’s a moon: a gaseous one if I’m not wrong.” He hugged her. “Get on to the Journal of the British Astronomical Society. This is headline news. It could get you out of this dump and on to The Sky at Night. You’ll be a celeb.”

“That’s not all,” she said. “It’s sending out signals: regular sound waves. Someone or something’s trying to make contact.”

“Oh, come on, you two.” Professor Colin Goodall, known not so affectionately as Know-all, lounged back in his swivel chair with his feet on his desk. He looked up from The Daily Mail crossword. “It’ll be some zit-faced adolescent hacking into the computer trying to make us look stupid: not difficult in your case.”

Kathy ignored him. “I’m going to reply with a download of a Beginner Reader and a book on English grammar. Let’s see if we get a response.”

“Seven down,” Colin said. “A long shot for stargazers: two words, twelve and four.”

“Astronomical odds,” Jake said. “Don’t you ever do any work?”

“No, I’m the team leader. Don’t forget to mention me when you make your claim to fame, Kathy, but keep quiet about the little green men.” He screwed the crossword page into a ball, aimed it at the least full waste paper bin, and missed. “No snotty-nosed nerd from a bed-sit in Brixton’s going to make a fool out of me.”

Kathy sent her English language lessons to Saturn’s newfound moon. She then prepared a report of her discovery, attached it to a covering email and forwarded it to The Journal of the BAS.

“What are you going to call it?” Jake asked.

“Well, there’s a glut of Greek and Roman deities out there so I’ll go Nordic and call it Odin.”

Next morning Kathy was already at her workstation with a doughnut in her hand and a smile on her face when Jake and Colin arrived. “They’ve replied,” she said.

“Who, the BAS?” Jake said. “That was quick.”

“No, the Odinians, and in perfect English. Look.”

He read the screen. “Greetings. Thank you for your comprehensive instructions regarding the symbols of your choice. We will accommodate you by using them in all further communications. Please send details of your world’s social organisation. We can access your messages and send our replies at the speed of light.”

Jake did a mental calculation. “From the vicinity of Saturn that’s sixty-eight minutes one way.”

“Considerably less from a Brixton bed-sit,” Colin said, “but of course they’ll need thinking time before responding so don’t bother with a stop-watch.”

Kathy fought the urge to smack him. “Get your head out of the tabloids and do your job, Know-all. The Ods are real. I’m sure of it.” She was already typing a reply giving an outline of the world’s various political systems, and she added, “How is your society organised?”

Two and a half hours later she received an answer. “We choose the most intelligent among us to be our leaders and we respect their decisions. It works.”

Colin said, “If we did that I’d be in charge of the whole shebang.” He added, “Fourteen minutes thinking time: not bad.”

“Use a stop-watch, did you?” Jake asked.

The Odinians asked for details of Earth’s cultural accomplishments. Kathy sent them a recording of John Lennon singing Imagine. They added a three-part harmony and sent it back.

She sent them the text of The Tempest. Colin laughed, “Oh, they’ll love that. We’ll hear the applause all the way from Saturn. Not.”

“Just because you don’t appreciate Shakespeare it doesn’t mean they won’t.”

“I do appreciate Shakespeare, my lass unparalleled. I played Richard II in an Old Etonians production back in the eighties, but I doubt ET and his chums would demonstrate unbridled enthusiasm.”

“Because they didn’t go to Eton?”

“Because they don’t bloody exist. Young Master or Mistress Hacker is extracting the urine.”


The Journal of the BAS published Kathy’s report. She was nominated for the prestigious Fowler Award, and Odin was officially recognised as Saturn’s sixty-third moon. The BBC invited her to appear on The Sky at Night and the Prime Minister informed Jodrell Bank that he wished to visit Professor Goodall’s team in order to offer his congratulations. The cleaners and decorators invaded the back room, emptied the waste paper bins, removed the dog-eared magazines and painted the walls.

On the day of the ministerial visit Colin showed up in a suit and tie for the first time in living memory and placed an unread hardback edition of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time on his desk.

A gaggle of guides, dignitaries and bodyguards announced the great man’s arrival. They waited outside Colin, Kathy and Jake’s domain, as he entered.

“Professor Goodall, I presume.” He offered his hand.

Colin shook it, “Honoured to meet you, Prime Minister.”

“Oh, please don’t call me Prime Minister.”

“What shall we call you?”

“Call me Bob.”

Kathy interrupted the pleasantries with a yell, “Yaaay! We’ve had another message from the Ods.”

Call-Me-Bob said, “What are the odds?”

Colin winked at his junior colleagues, ”Astronomical, I should think.”

Kathy’s patience with Know-all’s hacking nonsense ran out and slammed the door. It was time the Ods went public. “Not odds, Prime… sorry, Bob. Ods: short for Odinians. We’ve established contact with sentient beings on Odin and that’s what we call them.”

Beads of sweat appeared on Call-Me-Bob’s brow. He turned back to Colin. “Is this true, Professor?”

Colin shrugged, “Well, maybe. We’re not sure. It’s probably a hoax.”

Call-Me-Bob applied a virginal white handkerchief to the runnels of perspiration and his equilibrium re-asserted itself. “Splendid. I’ll see you guys later. Keep up the good work.” He fled, and the guides, dignitaries and bodyguards whisked him away.

Kathy scowled at the back of his retreating head. “I’m not a guy. I don’t sit on a bonfire in November and I don’t have a penis.”

“Neither does the bozo on the bonfire,” Colin said.

Jake grinned. “The one my younger brother and sister made last year did. It was a corker, too.”  He whispered

details of a shared experience into Kathy’s ear. She laughed and dug him in the ribs.

“Please, children,” Colin said, “show some decorum. Now, what’s the latest hogwash from the hacker?”

“Sorry, Colin,” Jake said. “You’re wrong about them. They’ve sent us something well beyond the scope of a snotty-nosed, zit-faced IT prodigy.” He beckoned him to the screen. “They’ve written a sequel to The Tempest.”

Oh, I can’t read from computer screens,” Colin said. “They give me a migraine. I need some thinking time.” He yawned. “You two read it. You can give me a synopsis. Keep it brief.” He loosened his tie, kicked Stephen Hawking onto the floor, put his feet up on his desk and closed his eyes.

The Ods had called their sequel The Calm After the Storm. When they’d read it Jake said, “Know-all has to concede this is the work of a high intelligence. Even old Will wouldn’t have sniffed at it.”

Kathy nodded. She interrupted Colin’s snores, “Wake up. Thinking time’s over. You have to hear this.”

He opened one eye. “I’m listening. Fire away.”

She began, “After Prospero and the gang have cleared off, Ariel visits Caliban in the old homestead and boosts up the poor bugger’s self-image by pointing out he’s not a monster, he’s a cracking specimen of young manhood. He belongs to a racial group that Prospero and his reprobates had never encountered, so their response to him had been typically parochial.”

“A post-imperial interpretation, then,” Colin said. “Very PC.”

“May I continue?”

“Please, do. This is such stuff as dreams are made on, is it not?”

Right, so shut up.” She continued. “Ariel tells Caliban to build a boat that will take him to an inhabited island where he’ll find companionship. He controls the wind and it blows the boat safely to the island. The community accept Caliban, with his sweet-talking ways, and Ariel flies off. Job done.”

“The thing is,” Jake said, “the prose is as masterly as the bard at his best. This is a work of art, Colin. You can’t go on pretending the Ods don’t exist.”

Okay,” Colin said. “If they do exist how do we handle it? I need to think about this. You two clear off for a while and give me some peace.”

Fine,” Kathy said. “It’s past lunchtime. Let’s see what Nora’s got on offer today, Jake.”

“Good idea, but before we go I want to send the Ods some images so they know what we look like. We should ask them to send us some of themselves.”

“We can download photos from our security files,” Kathy said. “Is that okay with you, Colin?”

“Sure,” he said. He seemed preoccupied.

They sent their picture gallery to the Ods. “We’re off to the canteen now,” Jake said. “Shall we bring you something back?”

“No, thanks, not hungry.” That wasn’t like him. They shrugged and left.


When he was alone, Colin seated himself at the computer screen and composed a message to the Ods. “You say your society works well because you have the most intelligent people in charge. We don’t. Consequently, our world is in a mess. Can you help?”

Two hours and sixteen minutes later he received a reply, “We will take it under advisement.”


When Kathy and Jake returned Colin showed them his message, and the Ods’ reply.

“Did you think they’d persuade the human race to give you the job?” Jake said.

“I don’t know what I expected, but they might give us some advice. Perhaps their leaders are working on it.”

“It looks to me like they’ve mastered the art of the polite brush-off.”

“Anyway, I’m ready for the enticements of the canteen now. See you later.”

He returned after an hour with a packet of Nora’s culinary creations and a copy of The Daily Mail, slouched in his chair and put his feet back on his desk. Before he reached the crossword page the Ods replied. Kathy and Jake read in silence.

Jake said, “Call-Me-Bob needs to be told. Any idea where he is, Colin?”

“Yes, he’s in the canteen, scoffing doughnuts and canvassing Nora for her vote. What’s so urgent?”

“I’ll go and get him,” Kathy said.

Jake shook his head. “No, not yet. Let him enjoy his doughnuts. He’ll lose his appetite when he’s seen this.”

“What the hell is it?” Colin shouted.

“It’s a reply to you as well as us: no pictures, just eight words.” He swivelled the screen towards Colin, so he could read the message.

“We are like Ariel and we are coming.”


The End



‘Lass unparalleled’  (William Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra, 5.2.318)

‘Such stuff as dreams are made on’ (William Shakespeare, The Tempest, 4.1.146)


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